By Tricia Hall
Sojourner’s Truth Reporter
The Junction community attracted over 300 people between Dorr and Detroit streets, to enjoy a day-long series of activities to commemorate Juneteenth.
The African American Legacy Project (AALP) organized a program to observe the centennial anniversary of the Negro Leagues and unveil the official historical marker. The event was held at the AALP property located on Collingwood and Dorr which was decorated as a baseball diamond. The event was supported by local vendors, event sponsors and members of the African American Legacy Project’s Sports Legends.
The program was co-hosted by Tom Cole of BCSN and James Starks of WTVG. Rev. Willie Perryman delivered the prayer, Theresa Harris sang “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” plus another selection, while several elected officials and community leaders delivered remarks in recognition of the occasion.
“Thrilled to be here today for the first federally recognized Juneteenth. I just want to stand here and tell you that I respect Mr. Robert Smith and what he has done in Toledo. Congrats on this accomplishment Mr. Smith,” said U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.
“Events like today provide what we can become. Remember those who came before us, put their names on buildings, plaques, and parks to draw strength from them like they never left,” shared Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz.
“I want to thank the Sports Legends for their dedication to this event and entire project. It’s not about me but the volunteers. They are important. AALP has been here for 17 years and we’re still growing in partnerships. Thank you to the Sports Legends and to our board,” said Robert Smith, CEO of African American Legacy Project.
Immediately following the program and unveiling, two community coalitions presented a parade which featured music, dancing and social awareness and community celebration.
The parade began at the corner of Collingwood and Dorr and ended at the Frederick Douglass Community Association grounds. The Junction Coalition recruited community vendors: Born 2 Sparkle, Charming Gal boutique, Chris’s Custom Creations, Customtreatz Afi, Deflame Candles, Divine Designz by Angela, isChosen Customs, Myra Love, Ohio Snkrs, Papparazzi Nichole, Rehabsneakers, Savvy Sista, Sonia Organics, Sui Generus, Trina’s Mobile Nail Clinic and Unique Collections. A Community United recruited community partners: Toledo Opera, Toledo MetroParks, The Arts Commission, Toledo Symphony and VProject to provide services for celebration attendees.
“Juneteenth is not without the consistent efforts of Ms. Opal Lee. She’s 94 years old and made this day possible. She has demonstrated that everyday people can accomplish extraordinary accomplishments,” said Toledo City Councilwoman Tiffany Whitman, PhD.
“Today was epic and monumental. We celebrate the historic significant of today and the sacrifices made by so many,” said Reggie Williams of Frederick Douglass Community Association.
The Negro League was created in 1920 to provide African Americans the opportunity to play baseball by pitcher, Rube Foster. The inaugural teams were: Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars, Dayton Maros, Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs and St. Louis Giants. Toledo was home to three Negro teams: Toledo Tigers from 1922-1923, Toledo Crawfords in 1939 and Toledo Cubs in 1944.
The celebration sponsors were: Taylor Automotive Family, Lucas Metropolitan Housing, Toledo Lucas County Library, The Arts Commission, Juice 107.3 FM radio, City of Toledo, Toledo Public Schools and Lucas County UMAODOP.
The Junction Coalition’s vision is to create a viable, safe, and sustainable community for ALL generations CONNECTED to RESOURCES and INFORMATION PROMOTING a better quality of LIFE. The coalition’s four pillars are: Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, Social Justice and Peace Education. For additional information visit https://junctioncoalition419.org/
Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation announcement and enforcement in Texas by Union soldiers at the conclusion of the Civil War on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Over the years, the day was commemorated primarily in the black community.
In 1980, Texas became the first state to officially recognize the day as a holiday and by 2019, 47 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth. President Biden signed the legislation into law in June of 2021 that marks Juneteenth as an official United States holiday. This follows the efforts of Opal Lee, who fought for years to ensure that Juneteenth became a national holiday.